Monday, May 23, 2011

Less Bad Budget Reductions

There is enough money in the Michigan School Aid fund to maintain per pupil funding (and perhaps even to increase it). Additionally, last week, Michigan’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference confirmed an unexpected increase of $400+ million. The Governor and Republican leaders tentatively agreed to reduce the reduction (I guess this makes it less bad) to each school district by a reported $200 per student. Districts that meet certain “best financial practices” may have their reductions reduced (even less badly) to $100 per student. A vote on this at the state level will come on May 24, with the hopes of passing a budget by May 31. 

We are appreciative of the lowering of the reduction (lessening the bad--it’s akin to feeling good about paying $3.95 instead of $4.20 for a gallon of gas), although any reduction is unnecessary. I’m concerned that districts must meet arbitrary qualifications in order to receive a (lessened bad) portion of the reduction. Why punish the students in this way? Why punish schools? Why not work with us? Why not include us in the process? Why not engage in discourse with us? Why not delay the “best practices” requirement for one year to make sure all schools can qualify and all kids can benefit? What message does this convey regarding the value Michigan places on education? Our economy does not have enough money to award grants. 

This is exactly what the Obama administration did with Race to the Top--they forced us to implement certain “best practices” and then provided funding to qualifying states through a competitive process--the mandates are with us and we have no additional revenue to implement them. Providing more money to some school districts perpetuates the existing have-and-have-not status. I’m for all kids. This means every single one of them (first, middle, and last names).

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